It might seem like a sound strategy: let social media do its thing to promote your business and assume that your hard-won reputation will remain intact. In reality, this could not be further from the truth. In today's cultural climate, social media can be a brand's best friend and, in equal measure, its biggest enemy.
Social Media Use Is on the Rise
According to Statista, in 2022, social networking sites are estimated to reach 3.96-billion users. Every user represents an opportunity for a positive or negative comment on a brand to spread rapidly through a geographical, social, or virtual community.
Facebook (also known as Meta) alone sits with more than 2.89 billion monthly active users. Three of the other big players (WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, and Instagram) each have one billion monthly active users, while smaller platforms can also be highly influential in different communities.
What This Level of Influence Means for Brands
According to research that surveyed over 1000 social media users, 64% want brands to connect with them, while 57% increase their spending on a brand when a connection is built through social media, and 76% of them will buy from them over a competitor for that same reason.
Content that is too heavily branded puts consumers off. However, when it connects with their own ideologies, tells fascinating stories, or taps into issues people are discussing, it's a win.
The Harvard Business Review provides a sterling example of how three personal hygiene products, Dove, Axe, and Old Spice, succeeded in gaining interest by "championing distinctive gender ideologies around which crowd-cultures had formed."
It's also a success story when positive feedback on products or services flows through digital 'word of mouth', and consumers flock towards brands endorsed by other ordinary people.
According to Forbes, "Social media channels are [also] a place for brands to gain real-time insights into their audience's tastes," but the downside of this is when a negative public response goes viral. Such responses run the gamut from a customer complaining about a product to a member of the public accusing a brand's marketing strategy of endorsing a taboo topic.
Negative social comments can harm a brand's reputation
In the same way that gossip and disaster stories spread more quickly than positive stories, negative commentary is more likely to go viral than positive feedback.
And, once it's doing the rounds, it becomes harder to contain. Social media users are seldom interested in 'the other side of the story. And, unlike traditional media, which is regulated and underpinned by codes of ethics, the same cannot be said for social media. This means unchecked information goes viral extremely quickly.
Before the rise of social media, people might have shared negative company experiences with a small circle of friends and family. Today, however, a single negative content can spread throughout social networks and reach thousands of users.
Timing is also a challenge. When negative sentiment has already made the rounds on social media, even the sharpest strategy for a response might be a case of 'too little too late.' The most damaging of all is no response or a late response from a company.
According to Redefine Marketing Group, 78% of people who complain to a brand via Twitter expect a response within an hour. Even if the customer does not return, the response from the company "shows potential future customers that you're trying to turn things around."
A memorable example of social media-induced brand damage is fast-food chain Mcdonald's, which ran a campaign a decade ago using the hashtag McDStories to tell human interest stories behind the brand. Their attempts fell flat, however, as social media users hijacked the hashtag and used it to discuss service problems, food quality, and other damaging stories. To this day, the beleaguered hashtag has not gone away.
Brands Need Robust Social Media Monitoring and Moderation
Because social media never sleeps, brands are constantly at its mercy. That is why social monitoring and moderation is a crucial component of any business.
With so many users able to share negative feedback at the click of a button, a reputation that has taken years to build can be ruined in a single day. A single incident can lead to a massive drop in sales or business that persists for weeks or months.
Because of this, it is essential to have a centralized media monitoring team that is always on top of the game with clearly defined roles and strategies.
As New York Times bestselling author Neil Patel points out, "with social media, nothing ever seems to die."
He says that once a thread or conversation starts, "you're going to be battling it or handling it forever." However, with strong moderation in place, you can de-escalate the situation in time for it to fade somewhat into the background before it eclipses any positive image the brand has established.
Many companies have learned the hard way that social media monitoring is not a luxurious add-on or one that can be left in the hands of different departments. Just as a spokesperson is a gatekeeper and damage controller with mainstream media outlets, the moderation team must protect the brand from social media negativity with all its might.
This means integrating the human touch with the speed and efficiency of artificial intelligence (AI) to ensure that a small situation does not mushroom into a case of irreversible reputational damage.
Having a system in place before it's too late
With social media growing exponentially and users taking full advantage to air their views, no brand can afford the reputational damage of a social media storm. Without a centralized system to control damage immediately, efficiently, and constructively, every day is a new opportunity for a brand to lose ground and its owners to lose business.
Consistent social media monitoring brings the human touch and AI together and can prevent problems before they become unmanageable. For expert social media monitoring, you can turn to us at Helpware.com.